Northwest cherry growers estimate harvesting 22.6 million 20-pound box equivalents in their first crop forecast of the year.

That figure, though likely to change as the growing season progresses, would mark a 15 percent drop from 2017’s record crop of 26.43 million boxes, according to a news release from the Northwest Cherry Growers, a Yakima, Washington-based industry association that represents cherry orchardists from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah.

Harvest should start in the first week of June this year, several days earlier than last year’s June 8 start.

Each year as cherries mature, the group makes several estimates with a 22-person team of field representatives, historical data, weather and other factors. The next estimate, however, likely will come when the group holds its annual meeting Wednesday, May 16, in Richland.

—by Ross Courtney